Over allowance ‘discrimination’
By Omar Bah
The Independent Electoral Commission regional representatives have threatened to boycott duties in the upcoming local government elections over “unfair treatment”.
A communiqué shared with The Standard signed by a group of regional staff who asked for anonymity and accused the IEC’s management of side-lining them by refusing to pay them allowances for the recruitment exercise of election officials.
According to the communiqué, the regional officers are unhappy with the way they are being treated by the commission, especially its CEO Samboujang Njie.
“We want the Gambian people to know how the commission is treating its regional staff. We are currently embarking on a strike and refusing to participate in the process of selecting elections officers such as polling officers and polling assistant sfficers, presiding officers, assistant presiding officers because they refused to provide allowances for us. They only selected people from the head office and paid them allowances to do the work which we deem unfair,” the communiqué stated.
According to the staff, at some regions like Brikama and Kanifing, the commission picked staff from the head office and paid them fat allowances to recruit election officers while the regional officers are not paid.
“In the other regions they are only paying a regional returning officer who is going to do the shortlisting. We feel that this is unfair and because of that we are going to put all our tools down and we cannot help them do the shortlisting if we are not catered for. The other thing is about the payment of half allowances; during any election activity we are given allowances but usually they always give full allowances to those at the headquarters and half to those in the regions. We feel that this too is not fair because we do the bulk of the work,” the regional staff complained.
They further alleged that the IEC head office always overlooks the regional staff when it comes to opportunities for further studies.
“When it comes to scholarship, they only provide them to those at the head office and even if the regional officers applied for sponsorship to go to university, they refused to support but they will give scholarships among themselves. There are regional staff who paid for themselves to acquire degrees without the commission is giving them professional allowances. And truth be told, in every election, it is the regional staff who do all the hard work, from coordination to everything before the results are sent to the IEC office for announcement. We want them to treat us equally and better.”
When contacted for comments, the IEC’s Chief Electoral Officer, Samboujang Njie, said the allegations are bogus.
“I have all the documentation to prove that all what they are saying is baseless. They are saying we sidelined them in the shortlisting of polling officers but they are our host in the regions – we send our senior officials there and when people move from one office to another, they are paid but when you are in your office you are not paid. In fact, payment of election duties is based on the risk involved so they will be paid in the interview as it used to happen. So, what happened this year is that we separated the interview and the shortlisting,” he said.
On the reduction of allowance, CEO Njie added: “The policy is, if you move away from your station, you are paid full percentage but if you are working from your station and did not move, you are paid 50%,” he said.
On the alleged discrimination with scholarship opportunities, Mr Njie said: “We have a training committee that sits and looks at all the applications and approval is based on the activity and from 2019 to date, the IEC has been very involved. We have sponsored somebody even from the region to do his study in Ghana up to master’s level. I have evidence of this. There is nothing we are getting that they don’t have.”
“You see, this is new Gambia; everybody will go about saying whatever they want. But what stops them from coming to the head office to talk to the chairman? What they did is a breach of protocol,” he concluded.